Archive for the ‘news’ Category

We did some financial business on Saturday. When we met the notary who we employed he gave us a bump, not a handshake. Coronavirus social fallout. In extremis. We are afraid to hug and even shake hands. The world is colder.

I did my taxes last week. My wife is taking them to the tax preparer today. Money. This morning I see that the Dow has cratered again. I don’t plan to look at my stock and bond portfolio online any time soon. I positioned myself the best I could. A fearful fall. Yikes! I carry on, but less confidently.

Fear of personal human contact, fear of economic forces beyond our control, my own health issues — the world feels unsafe to me this morning.

Adding to this, the presidential candidates are heating up for this fall’s election. Here too I experience some anxiety. I’m looking for a candidate who reflects my Christian values — for me it is someone who will move beyond the current politics of hostility and polarization and help us work together again. We need to start getting along better. Our polarized two party system is failing us.

And I want a leader who will lead us to better take care of our beautiful planet earth. Regardless of your stand on climate change, there is no doubt that we are polluting and trashing and destroying ecosystems and species right and left. This can’t continue. We must think and plan for those who come after us.

I also want a leader who will avoid excessive debt, especially business leveraged debt, but few voices are sounding the alarm on this. And I want help creating wise and humane immigration policies. I want a leader who will eschew racism, care for the poor and the marginalized and value and respect women.

I haven’t found that leader among the candidates yet, especially someone with a deep passion and wisdom and plan for bringing us together again.

What to do? How do I engage in good psychohygiene?

While not denying present losses and dangers, while taking appropriate safe guards, while continuing to choose wisely, I can help myself with my fears in several ways.

First, I take the long view of things. Current problems — while very significant — will change over time. Health ebbs and flows. Economics cycle down and up. Political leaders come and go.

Secondly, I can do what I can.

I can foster my own politics of love and avoid the politics of contempt. I can make my own progress in caring for the planet and in loving others. I’ve been eating meals that leave a smaller carbon footprint. I’ve been eating meals that cause less suffering to animals. I’ve been using less plastic. I’ve been loving friends and family who don’t agree with me politically. I’ve been praying for immigrants and refugees living in fear and poverty. I have been making charitable contributions to organizations that care for the disabled and that build homes for the impoverished. I’ve been attempting to give the upmost respect and honor to the women in my life.

And I was gentle with myself today and tried to mitigate my own chronic pain and to use it to motivate me to pray for all the people in the world who are suffering today.

Thirdly, it helps to focus on the positive and good and safe in our lives — a warm, dry place to sleep tonight, loving friends and family, finances that at least meet the needs of the moment, beauty I can see around me.

I fear. I carry on as if I don’t. I mowed my lawn today, paid for my tax prep, protected some potted nasturtiums from the coming rain, fed the cat, took my medications, prayed for friends and family and world.

I took hope in moments of the day, even imperfect as they were because of pain. I spent a few moments sitting in my sunny garden, soaking in the warmth of God‘s love for me and for all of us. The gift of the sun is life. Tonight it will rain in San Diego. The earth will be watered with the refreshing and renewing power of life giving water. The economic cycle may be broken but the rain cycle is not. I look forward to sleeping to the sound of rain, water in the rain gutters, watering on my lawn, refreshment for the earth.

I want and need to engage in hope in God. He’s got me. He has got us.. He has come through before. He will again.

Oh my weak, unsettled soul, trust in God. Rest in God. He knows. He will not leave us to our own solutions or our own failures. He will spin the sun and send warm rain on us yet again.

Without God where could I turn for hope, comfort, help?

I try to take my cues from the wise ones.

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

and the fields produce no food,

though the olive crop fails

and no cattle in the stalls,

though there are no sheep in the pen

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come to us as the rain, as the latter and former rain to the earth.

Hosea 6:3

The New York Times recently ran an article explaining the rise of a voting base in the U.S. that is “characterized by a desire to shut out the world, ruthlessly promote American interests, reject cooperation and meet threats with overwhelming force.”

This constituency is afraid, angry and isolated. They want to close the door.

I’m not.


Because I’m a Christian.  Jesus said to go into the whole world and love people of all nations and bring the forgiveness and concern of Christ to them all.

You can’t do that if you shut the whole world out.

Christian’s aren’t called to promote only their own interests. Christians aren’t called to isolate themselves from people who are different from them. Christians aren’t called to fear and hate and harm. We would do well to remember that in the Old Testament God opposed and judged the nations who were overly harsh and brutal in battle with other nations.

According to Jesus, we Chritians are the people of the other cheek, we are the people of go-into-the-whole world, we are the people who are to be known for their compassion, their generosity and their love. Yes, we protect the weak and innocent, no we don’t shut out the world.

I’ve gotten out a little, as a Christian — to Nicaragua, to South Africa, to Swaziland, to Italy, to Canada, to Brazil, to Puerto Rico, to Mexico, to England and to France — and from the small slice of the world that I’ve seen, the nations are full of beautiful people, people just like me, people who enrich and add to me whenever I get to know them, people with the same hurts and hopes that I have.

Worshiping in Zulu in Johannesburg, in Spanish in Mexico City, in Portugese in Campinas, in English in London, I have been overwhelmed with a powerful, deep and meaningful connection with the nations. There is someting profound beyond words about how much we have in common with others who are different from us, rather  about how different we are from those who are the same as us.

Unfortunately, some Christians leave their Chritianity at the slamed door when they enter the political battlefield. But closed doors, closed minds and closed hearts  — there is nothing Christian about that.


The news is booze! It will make your head wooze.

Last week — being over-exposed to the Presidential election news — I found myself anxiously consulting the headlines several times a day. Not good. I  began to suffer a kind of polical poison-brain.

When my brother Steve told me he had read an article that said overexposure to negative, unsettling or  violent reports on the news has an ill effect on health, I unhooked.

I was suffering from toxic political waste. It can cause stress, anxiety and depression.

I’m better now.

Over the weekend I baked an excellent pizza,  I went to the park with my family, I settled down to reading a fine biography of Ben Franklin, I took in a fun and inspiring Christian music concert, and I had an excellent time at church yesterday surrounded by people who don’t thrive on insults. Last night I watched 60 Minutes where I saw that a church — guided by love not fear — was sponsoring Syrian refugees.  How refreshing!

This week I’m living differently. I am glancing at the political circus, but I’m not buying a ticket to the big tent. With the lack of integrity that characterizes some of our candidates, with the level of hostility, vitriol and brutality that defines this election, I think it is best for me to wean myself from political voyeurism.

Frankly, the whole mess makes me vow to eschew lying, to long to live and act more humbly, to honor everyone I can around me, to be kind to suffering people from other countries, to never be inappropriate with women, to give away more time and money to charity than I ever have before and finally to further open myself to the astonishingly compassionate and unselfish heart of God for all people.

It’s what we are supposed to do.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


The ScreamNow the world is outraged! It is 2103. We  think of ourselves as a modern, civilized people, but a 23-year-old woman has died of injuries sustained during a brutal gang rape on a bus in India.

We are aghast! But not enough.

It is noted in the popular press that India is a country with the world’s oldest religion, the largest democracy, and one of the fastest growing economies, as if old religion or large democracies or strong economies don’t tolerate rape. We know otherwise.

The religious, the democratic and the prosperous — they rape.

Certainly the way things are done or not done in India is part of the problem and should be addressed. Indian law doesn’t recognize rape committed within a marriage. It doesn’t count acts of oral sex as criminal rape. And it doesn’t allow for rape of men. India is slow to prosecute rape cases. Indian law enforcement does not do enough to protect its women from being harassed on its own public busses and streets.

We are offended! We should be. We focus our offence: India has a problem. It does. Indian laws, perspectives and protective measures need to change. But the problem is not isolated to India and it extends beyond rape.

Rape is an act of violence, and we Homo sapiens are a violent species – world-wide. We want to point the finger concerning sexual brutality at India. The statistics point everywhere. I live in the United States. My country is no exception.

The American Association of University Women reports that up to one in four American women experience unwanted sexual intercourse while attending college.

According to Stephen Donaldson, president of Stop Prison Rape, in the United States, more than 290,000 male prisoners are assaulted each year. Prison rape, says Donaldson in a New York Times opinion piece, “is an entrenched tradition.”

Studies indicate that people in the United States with developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to have acts of violence committed against them. Other studies also suggest that up to 68% of girls with developmental disabilities and 30% of boys with developmental disabilities will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday. Research suggests that 97% to 99% of abusers are known and trusted by the victim who has the developmental disability.

That’s shocking! That’s not. That is who we are, and that is what we are doing.

Everywhere, in India, and in the United States of America, in our wars, our prisons, our hospitals, our schools and even in our homes, we are systemically violent people, and everywhere sexual violence is semi-tolerated. We are habitually violent. We use force to get what we want – sex, money, revenge and control. And we are calm about that too much.

What we have world-wide is a crisis of violence against persons. Let it be talked about. We humans are habitually, systematically, consistently and brutally assaulting each other! We have a problem — all of us! We have governmentalized, commercialized, sexualized, and sanctified violence. We are violence machines; we know it, and we go with it, on and on and on.

Over 60 million lives were snuffed out in World War II. Over 60 million human beings! In our time, in our father’s generation, in our grandfather’s generation, we trashed and dumped 60 million bodies.

Of course, there were the causes, and the forces that had to be stopped, and the rationale and the reasons and the explanations and the conclusions, and yet 60 million lives, young lives were abused, shot, blown up, diseased, hacked up, experimented on and even incinerated alive.

We can’t dodge this reality! We are a violent species. We have been massively violent, recently — and not only at the level of Indian females.

We are aghast! We are not enough so. We are offended! We should be. World outrage does not match the depth of the affront or drive to the core of the problem. A more appropriate aghast-response is needed.

We should be much, much more offended than we are offended. We are under-offended!

Our aghast-reaction is underwhelming! There is not enough marching, standing up, protesting, lobbying, arguing, researching, understanding, confronting, problem solving and reforming our world’s life-style of violence.

We are under-responding to the insult against women and against bodies worldwide. We are not protecting bodies, everywhere. We must face reality: We have a planetary tradition of insulting bodies.

Aghast, the aghast must not stop, the sense of horror must not be dulled by the neat explanations and the nicely organized war museums and the moving on of popular culture and the unimpassioned explanations in history books and the under-reaction of the news media with their quiet sentences and civilized, standardized reporting and their pointless end-stop punctuation.

We should begin to change this, all of us, now, yesterday! We are too quiet on rape! We need more crying out! We should go into violence-correction mode, with no end stops. We should not stop shouting that the current world-wide violation of bodies is totally unacceptable to all of us.

A world-wide movement protest against rape is needed. A world-wide protest against all forms of violence is needed. The violence we are allowing is simply not acceptable for human beings.

Our very bodies need to cry out for themselves, “Respect us! Honor us. Do not touch us without our permission. Our skin is a boundary that all of you must honor! Leave our women alone! We require that our developmentally disabled live without being sexually assaulted!”

All bodies, sick, well, male, female, disabled, not disabled, foreign, family, friend, near, far, small, large, gay, not gay, religious, not religious, foe, enemy, different, the same — they should be given nurture and care and love and protection – always!

Bodies of the world, unite.

O how the mighty has fallen — off his bike.

Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France cycling titles and banned for life from sanctioned Olympic events.  Nike, Trek, Anheuser-Busch, Oakley and several other sponsors have dropped him. Furthermore, Lance has stepped down as the chairman of Livestrong, the cancer-awareness charity he founded 15 years ago after surviving testicular cancer.

Why? Armstrong and his teams used steroids, the blood booster EPO and blood transfusions to help them win the Tour de France. They cheated and lied their way to victory.

USADA’s recent report on Armstrong says the now-retired rider was involved in the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”  The evidence from his teammates is that the cyclist not only used banned drugs but bullied others into using them too.

Lance made us proud; now he has made us sad, mad, perhaps more cynical or just numb.

Lance’s losses are big time. He can’t be having fun these days. He had the big rides, he had the adrenaline rush of being the big star, he made cycling history, but the memories and accomplishments are tainted now. They were illegally won. Well, one might muse, he still has the big money that came with the big wins, but even the cash may now be may be at risk. Legal experts say Armstrong may be sued, and that coming clean with a confession could make him even more vulnerable to civil or criminal actions.

So many conclusions can be drawn from this saga and will be over the next few years. Certainly one is this: members of a group sometimes collectively engage in risky, potentially ruinous behavior in order to achieve a desired end. In such groups, a culture develops in which everyone participates in a cover up and a lie. They agree to lie and cheat to win.

How does this happen?

Well, for one thing, group members may buy into that old, trite but highly useful rationalization.  “Everybody is doing it.”

Such group think was most likely a factor for Lance’s riders. The logic was, “We have to dope because all the other contenders are doing it. We have to drug up just to level the playing field, just to have a chance to win.” But at that fork in the road, where one chooses to pedal the shady route or not, that is precisely where each cyclist’s personal responsiblity comes into play.  To fall in with the collective mindset, to decide to push a doped pedal, that was an individual choice for each rider. Why make such a choice? Perhaps it worked like this in their heads:”It’s worth the risk for the chance to win, and with the good doctor’s help, we aren’t likely to get caught.” How did that work out for them? They did win, but they got caught, winning unfairly, and stripped of honors.

It seems clichéd these days to say there was and always is the option in sport to stay clean, to refuse the rationalization, to go for it, fair and square. There was; there is. But, in cycling,  in Lance’s era, clean may have meant  that you simply couldn’t win a race like the Tour de France. It’s sad, but it may have meant that clean, you had to go compete somewhere else, and ride at a lower level. That’s hard, for a “winner’s” mentality, but it’s a good choice for a guilt-free mentality.

Secondly, on Lance’s team, some of the riders seem to have been coerced, intimidated and even threatened to go along with the cheat. You were in or you were out. You doped or you were noped. And worse, there might have been the mindset that if you finked, if you talked and tried to expose the thing, Lance would come after you. There is evidence that Armstrong  used the strong-arm.


Everybody who doped should own that. They did it. They knew it was illegal.  It’s on them. If they lost their wins, it was their fault. If they lost their reputations, they did it to themselves. If they lose their money — on them too. Lots of loss, but not just individual loss. We lost too, the fans, along with the riders. We lost our heroes, perhaps our trust in winners, perhaps our faith in clean sport, but still they lost more. We didn’t lose one thing they lost: along the way, they lost their integrity. If we are still honest, in what we do, then we haven’t lost that. And for those who have lost integrity, some of it is regained just by coming clean. It doesn’t change the past, but it might change the future. Honesty still makes a good mental insurance policy.

And as for the  team coaches, the team doctors and the lead riders, like Armstrong, who mandated and pushed a doping culture, they operated at another, even more culpable level. It is one thing to cheat; it is another to encourage and or mandate others to cheat. Harm yourself, not good, harm others, worse. Harm others to protect your own lies — that’s a pretty nasty life to live, and live with. To have ruined people to get what you wanted, that changes you, somehow, and not in a good way.

Sports, business, politics, entertainment — this isn’t new, cheating and lying. We’ve seen this before. Cheat, harm, lie, drag others into your scheme, attack, get caught, stonewall. People won’t always live strong; they’ll live wrong. Lance Armstrong did.

I’m not cynical. My conclusions do not include the overreaction, “You can’t trust anyone anymore.”  You can, but this will happen again. And  then again, thankfully — it will not.

Some people won’t cheat, they won’t lie, and they won’t harm others. And some of them will win, out of sheer hard work, practice, skill and fierce determination. And if they don’t win,  they will at least have a clear conscience, and in the end, that has more satisfaction in it than a stripped title.

I’m still rooting. I’m rooting for legit.

The other day, when I went to  the zoo, I noticed a lot of clumping, swarming and clustering.

The Harpy Eagle was happily hanging out at the entrance with his trainer and a whole crowd of gawkers, the Flamingos were squawking it up together around the pool, the fish in the  snapping turtle pool seemed to be clumping together for safety and the gorillas were all clustered up within 15 feet of each other, despite their huge, grassy, multi-storied, multi-waterfalled home.

What is that about?

A few nights ago when I went to bed, the same kind of  swarming together and hanging-out-close seemed to be going on,  so  I closed and latched my bedroom door so I might get some sleep.

It was a good thing. At 1 am they tried to break in and then again at 3 am I heard them banging on the door. But I held my ground, and as a result got some sleep. I know why they wanted in. They wanted my body, it’s warmth. because they are little and thermophilic and cold at night.

When I got up they were still by the door — my two cats, hungry for company, heat and love and … cat chow.

The creatures seem to not to want to be too much alone.

More and more people are living alone these days, however, partiularly in urban areas. Eric Klinenberg, in his new book,  Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, reports that in recent years, particularly since the 1950’s, solo living has grown, and it has grown most  in countries with booming economies: China, India, and Brazil. The US is lagging in this going-it-alone stuff,  but more people live alone in the United States than ever before, 28 per cent of all households, about 31 million people.

Studies on living alone have found that women, in contrast to men,  are more likely to have strong social networks, and that this enables them to live alone without being alone. Men, living alone, are more at risk of withdrawing into isolation that, in the extreme, can make them very unhappy and that can even be dangerous for them.

According to a Finnish study, “Living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related mortality — from alcohol-related diseases and accidents.”

It can be fine to live alone, but I think that for most of us, it is not fine to be too much alone. Household practices are changing, but not our core need for clumping.

This is particularly true when we move from our family of orgin to whatever we design next.

I remember in my college years, driving places alone, talking to myself in the car and  saying stuff like, “I need more than me, here…” The loneliness in the front of the car was palpable. It felt like cold, dark  water running through the bottom of a deep cave.

I find the desire for human warmth to be quite universal.

I spoke to a homeless man a while back, “What is hardest about being homeless?” I asked.

“The loneliness,” he said.  “I just need someone to talk to.”

It seems like, no matter how we choose to live, we can’t get away from it — the need for clumping and swarming. It’s weird, almost like we were wired for this, like God himself wired a social port into us. Perhaps it feels like that because …  that’s the way it is.

In the beginning of the beginning of the very beginning it was said, “It is not good … to be alone.”

I’ve been thinking a bit about that, and I think that perhaps it is one of the vast accomplishments of life to understand what exists that will never not exist and then to act accordingly.

We are inveterately, undeniably, intrincically social.

So what’s next?


The June, 2011 issue of Vanity Fair wrote up a juicy, detailed piece on Charlie Sheen’s media meltdown. All the drugging and prostituting and money wasting  is now chic-yuck. “Two and a Half Men” is over for Charlie,  but  Charlie himself is not over yet. Are we jealous pf Charlie, as he thinks, are we disgusted, or  just voyeuristic?  When Charlie went public with his special brand of insanity, he sucked up  a million followers on Twitter. Crazy money, high-priced prostitutes and extreme drug use tweets well in America.

It interesting.  Universal’s 2010  animated film Despicable Me has grossed something like $540 million worldwide.  In Despicable, love and loyalty win.  Gru, a lonely single-guy, lets his love for three little orphan girls win over his super-villianous selfishness. Charlie Sheen and Gru are both despicable, but Charlie is not the kind of despicable in this movie.  Audiences paid to see Gru’s transformation into a loving father and wiped a tear. Do we hark toward Gru or Charlie?  

Last night I saw Tracy Letts’  “August: Osage County” at the Globe.   It played 18 previews and 648 regular performances on Broadway. It’s the comic-tragic American family come unglued. At the core, the patriarch, Beverly cheats on his wife Violet with her sister and alcoholism, drug-addiction and pain ensue for the next two generations. The play ends with T.S. Eliot’s “This is the way the world ends…”  but this  screwed-up  family doesn’t end with a “bang” or  a “whimper,” but with silence —  empty, dark, alone silence.

American’s are increasingly bipolar in our entertainment preferences.

We alternate, between extremes. We go for Charlie then Gru,  back to Osage County, then on to Sesame Street. We love Lady Gaga. We love Taylor Swift.

We  seem to want safe, loving, kind, sane and loyal.

We are fascinated by cruel, hateful, mean and cheated.

Why? We are both. We contain both, all of us. We lust, we loyalify. We hate, we repent.

What wins? Both seem to.

Strong, opposing forces take turns in us, winning, losing, fighting to win again. Become a Charlie Sheen and you self-destruct. Pretend to be a saint and you are a liar. Make good choices or make bad choice, both end up as family entertainment, and grief.  

Charlie, Beverly or Gru?

It’s all so very interesting, but Gru strikes me as just a bit more fun over the long run.

I suspect that we quiet the voice.

We may even seize it, smother it, yank it out from under the pillow and beat it into silence.

A rather fascinating case study of this is professional cyclist Floyd Landis. Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France, but was shortly thereafter stripped of his Tour title for doping. He tested positive for synthetic testosterone after Stage 17. At that point he went into hyper-defensive mode, mounting a vigorous defense maintaining his innocence, even a 320 page book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France.

But recently, Floyd has dropped his long time protestations of innocence and confessed to doping throughout his career. He recently wrote up a series of e-mails to cycling officials and sponsors detailing his use of banned drugs.  He has broken the cycling code of silence on drugs, but he has broken more that that too.

It’s interesting, what we do with what we do wrong. Store it in a secret place, maintain our innocence, lead other people to believe our lie and profit from it.

There is a lot of indignation and anger now over Landis, and I understand this. He ripped us off, even taking a significant amount of money from donors supporting his quest to prove himself innocent. But really, few of us can honestly say we don’t understand how Floyd Landis could do this. It’s simple: profit motivates. Lies come easily to many people when there is a check and a place in history to gain.  

I don’t feel superior. None of us should.  I don’t have a big secret, most of us don’t. But which one of us hasn’t indulged in some behavior or thinking that didn’t meet the standard? And which of us has not been completely forthcoming so that we could preserve or gain something?

We tend to minimize our wrong doing, push off the uncomfortable feelings of guilt, talk over the voice of correction that seems to be so easily be bludgeoned and quieted into oblivion.

“I don’t feel guilty at all about having doped,” Landis told “I did what I did because that’s what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there; and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step. My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don’t do it and I tell people I just don’t want to do that, and I decided to do it.”

Interesting.  People gave their money to support him. People cheered him on.  People invested time and money in his defense. People are hurt, and Floyd doesn’t feel, guilty.

But despite the blustering, the fumbling attempts at honesty, I bet that privately Landis has taken himself to task for all this. What a mess.  This has to be embarrassing, acutely agonizing for him at some level. He not only lost his Tour title, but also his marriage, his savings, and his credibility.

What’s at the bottom of this?

I have been thinking lately about how we avoid the voice, and the voices.  

That voice is the one that comes from within, from what we call our conscience. Most of us have been taught that honesty is best.  Landis was surely taught this in his Mennonite upbringing. Most of us believe that the sports playing field should not include banned performance enhancers.  And most of us hear a voice within when we lie or cheat that says, “This is not so good. This is wrong. This is something I should not do or that I should stop doing. “

Landis heard that voice of conscience, and he beat it down. “Others do it. You have to do it to win. I’m just leveling the playing field.”  He made wrong right in his mind.

Interesting. But conscience isn’t the only voice he ignored.

 There are two more.

The second voice Landis pushed away is the organized voice of the community. It is the voice of the race organizers, the voice that sets the rules and awards the winners and the voice of the spectators, cheering on the race. That voice said, “No,” ahead of time, no to banned substances, no to cheating and no to lying. Landis totally discounted that collective voice.

Therein lays the angry news reports and the public indignation. We said we didn’t want this in the sport, and he ignored that while pretending he didn’t.  What must Landis’s co-author of his book be thinking? All those interviews, all those hours of research, all that trust that Landis was telling the truth to the public – trashed by his eventual neck-wrenching flip-flop.

This kind of deafness to what others require, what they need and want, is abusive.

The last voice Floyd pushed aside, God’s. “Don’t lie,’ goes the ninth commandment. Faith and sport cross paths here. As God knew before cycling existed, lying is really common,  but it makes a muck of things pretty much everywhere it occurs. There is good reason why many athletes pray and teams hold devotions. The playing field includes huge pot holes to fall into, but divine help and godly morality really help keep things safe and sane.

“I am innocent,” Floyd has said. “I am not innocent, “Floyd has said.

In the end, perhaps the most appropriate reaction is grief.

Important voices were ignored.

We Are Hungry

Posted: December 23, 2009 in news
Tags: , , , , , ,

Everybody is hungry.

Some are simple hungry, some twice hungry, some triple hungry — brain and heart and stomach simultaneously starving to death.   There are the physically hungry people and the psychologically needy and the spiritually hungry and the love hungry and the hate hungry too.

Our world is not cleanly divided up into rich and poor. It’s mixed up. There are poor people with rich people’s surfeit and rich people who are hungrier than poor people.

I’ve met homeless people who were profoundly selfish, self-centered and isolated, like some of the rich.  Some poor experience the poverty of pride, thinking inaccurately, “I am not like the greedy rich.” We are more alike than we will admit. Everybody tends toward looking down on someone.  In this way, being poor can make you more poor – relationally poor.  A poor person may be angry at everyone else, angry at the universe, angry at God or whatever might be god.  

And some people who are rich are so pathetically poor; they are the rich-poor. The Bank of America took 46 billion dollars in bail out money from the government in 2009. And it gave out 3.6 billion in bonuses to it’s Merrill Lynch executives. This is a form of emptiness, taking and giving lavish benefits while people are losing their homes. There is an unsatisfied hunger in evidence when we take too large a serving for ourselves from the community pot. Such grabbing betrays unmitigated hunger.

The hungry, empty rich? Many people would like to be this kind of empty. 

How does this emptiness make sense?

Personal wealth may be accompanied by and even contribute to all kinds of poverty: love poverty, good-sense poverty, spiritual poverty, moral poverty, relational poverty. If we prop ourselves up with bank accounts and houses and food and savings and retirements and accomplishments and reputation and insurances and neglect our inner persons, our sense of right and wrong in relating to others, some kind of relationship with something bigger than self, we can experience a radical, hidden form of soul thinness, of spiritual deprivation, of divine starvation.

Recently, I went to out to lunch.  I had delicious, gourmet fish tacos. I ate fast. Why? I ate alone. I hate to eat alone. A great meal is meant to be eaten with someone. A great meal is a relationship. A great meal is made to be shared.

But the raw and stunning truth of life is that not everyone shares in the meal, and furthermore, it is shocking who gets left out. Mary, the mother of Jesus, said about God, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” 

What a kick in the stomach! God sends the rich away empty.  How empty? Well, obviously empty of a relationship with God, if he sends them away, and empty of good relationship the poor who stay and eat. So is God prejudiced against the rich?

That can’t be right. Just because you are rich, doesn’t mean you can’t know God and receive from God. If God made everything, then everything we have is from God, so even the rich’s riches are from God and so rich and poor are similar in being dependent on a common source of wealth.   

A wise proverb says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” 

Godly people have been rich. Abraham was rich. Esther the, Jewish Queen, was rich. King David was rich. Solomon was rich. All knew God, were favored by God.

Jesus identified with the poor, but he too accepted moneyed people, tax collectors like his follower Matthew, business owners like Peter. But they did leave their businesses to follow him. And Jesus told one rich person to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor and to follow him. The obvious issue with this person was that his wealth would be a barrier to becoming God-rich and need would be part of a life of following God.  

So here is something a little problematic. If being hungry can bring you good things, then a lot of people are now up for good things, but they don’t seem to be getting the good things they need, and their poverty doesn’t seem to be uplifting. A billion people go to bed hungry each night. In the recession, as many as 200 million people are now unemployed worldwide.

50 million Americans live in food insecure households. Roughly 16 million people are unemployed in the United States. There have been over 200,000 home foreclosures in the United States since the recession began.  

He has filled the hungry with good things – but are all unemployed, homeless, hungry people filled? No, that isn’t true.

Hunger isn’t a virtue, it isn’t ennobling, and yet, it can open you to God. How? Hungry, you may realize, you need him. I met a man named William last week. He is HIV positive. William is homeless. He told me, “I could not have made it without God.” What did he mean? He meant he could not have made it without feeling God’s comfort, strength, provision of food, provision of love.

To receive from God, the rich and the poor must both be hungry for God. They must hunger to know God, to encounter God, to encounter Jesus as the bread of life.

They must admit their psychic poverty, admit their spiritual poverty, admit their weakness, and open both hands.

To be fed by God, we must all come to see that we are impoverished in some way. It is our choice, to recognize our poverty or not, admit our hunger, or not.

The spiritually fed, the emotionally healed, will be those who see they are poor and hungry, who suffer over their lack, no matter what they have physically, and who open their souls to God to fill them with good things – all the amazingly good that comes from a close relationship with him.

It’s complicated, but simple. We are all alike in one way. We are all hungry. And if we are triple filled, we will all be filled from one entrée – God.

Taylor Swift and Mary

Posted: November 30, 2009 in news
Tags: ,

This year at the country music awards Taylor Swift won Entertainer of the Year Award, Female Vocalist of the Year and more.  

At the recent American Music Awards she won artist of the year, favorite female artist in the pop/rock and country categories, favorite adult contemporary artist and more!

Whoohooo! Life rocks for Taylor!

Only a few years ago she was living a middle class life and annoying high school friends. She probably still is annoying some of them, but for many fans, she is their new celebrity.

The transition is startling. Not that long ago, she knew only a few chords and had only a handful of hopeful songs.  At the CMA awards, surrounded by her fans, playing the guitar and singing, the world adored her and sang her love songs with her.

Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone.
I’ll be waiting all there’s left to do is run.
You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess.
It’s a love story baby just say yes.

It’s a love story for sure, but there is still a lot left to be negotiated. In real life she doesn’t yet have the ring or the,“Yes.” What happens to Taylor over the next few years will be interesting to watch. I hope she gets loved and keeps singing well.

Which brings up the question: What lasts? Who ends up loved?

One thing is for certain, a humble start is typical for many love stories.  Perhaps there is hope for us on the lower rungs.

Young girls looking for love — history is full of them. Think Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It is hugely significant that when God chose a mother for his son, God didn’t chose a Jewish beauty queen; God didn’t chose a rich, female Roman patrician , God didn’t choose a brilliant Greek woman-scholar. God chose a little thirteen year old servant girl with dark skin and no money from a third world country to carry a baby that would turn the world upside down.

And when he did, Mary got out her guitar and sang her own song.

In the Bible, Luke recorded it, Luke 1:46-47.

Mary sang:

I’m bursting with God news.

I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.

God took one good look at me,

And look what happened —

I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!

Mary made it! Big time! And she clapped inside over the annoucement that God let her, a humble servant,  play a special role in history. She sings over this, and her song is exuberant,  bold, spicy, festive, romantic —  a crazy happiness that she has been chosen as the helper of God.

And she sang well, for the song she sung has become a classic, international, universal winner.

Google “Magnificat.” That is the official name of Mary’s song.  The 2,000-year-old lyrics are still popular!

Conclusions can be drawn.

We want to be loved.

Figuring out our love song matters.

The best, most lastling tune we can sing, is our response to what God does for us.   


Check out Psalm 119:76 in the Message version. It’s a prayer.

 Oh, love me – and right now! hold me tight! Just the way you promised.